the study of the discourses [of madness,
punishment, sexuality, or Romantic love, etc.] must include the
as a system of representation-- "What
interested him were the rules and practices that produced meaningful
statements and regulated discourse in different historical periods."
about language and practice--Discourse
is "a group of statements which provide a language for talking
about ...a particular topic at a particular historical moment." "Discourse,
Foucault argues, constructs the topic. It defines and
produces the objects of our knowledge. It governs the way that a
topic can be meaningfully talked about and reasoned about.
[e.g. hysteria, sexuality, homosexuality,
Romantic love in late 19th century.]
nothing which is meaningful exists outside
discourse--"nothing has any meaning outside of discourse"
statements about 'madness' ...
the rules which prescribe certain ways of
talking about these topics and exclude others (rules of inclusion and
'subject' who in some ways personify
the discourse--the madman, the hysterical woman, the Romantic hero, etc.
how this knowledge about the topic acquires
a sense of embodying the 'truth' about it...
practices within institution for dealing
with the subjects--medical treatments for the insane, punishment regimes
for the guilty, ways of reading Romantic poetry, night walk for Romantic
poets, admiration of Romantic hero, etc.
discursive formation--the emergence of a new
discourse, decline of the old one
--history as discontinuous, with ruptures,
(e.g. knowledge about sex)
--knowledge linked to power, not only
assumes the authority of 'the truth' but has the power to make itself
--not the 'Truth" of knowledge in the
absolute sense--...but of a discursive formation sustaining a regime
--power circulates: It is never
monopolized by one centre. It 'is deployed and exercised through
a net-like organization.'
--power is not only negative; it is also
productive. "it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure,
forms of knowledge, produces discourses." (Representation 49-50)
Power and Subjectivity
Discourses themselves [are] the bearers
of various subject-positions: that is, soecific positions of agency and
identity in relation to particular forms of knowledge and practice.
discourse, subjected to discourse.
subject position--[for us to become
the subject of a particular discourse, and thus the bearers of its
power/knowledge] we must locate ourselves in the position from which
hte discourse makes most sense, and thus become its 'subjects' by subjecting'
ourselves to its meanings, power and regulation.
disease or performance?
Andre Brouillet, A clinical lesson at
La Salpetriere (given by Charcot), 1887
This painting represents a regular feature of Charcot's treatment regime,
where hysterical female patients displayed before an audience of medical
staff and students the symptoms of their malady, ending often with
a full hysterical seizure.
This painting could be said to capture
and represent, visually, a discursive 'event'--the emergence of a new regime
portrait of Augustine: Amorous
supplication "Among the most frequently photographed
was a fifteen-year-old girl named Augustine, who had entered the hospital
in 1875. Her hysterical attacks had begun at the age of thirteen
when, according to her testimony, she had been raped by her employer, a
man who was also her mother's lover. Intelligent, coquetish, and
eager to please, Augustine was an apt pupil of the atelier. All of
her poses suggest the exaggerated gestures of the French classical acting
style, or stills from silent movies. ...also seem to imitate poses
in 19th-century paintings [e.g. Ophelia, or Beata
Beatrice] (Showalter in Representation 73-74)
portrait of Augustine: Ecstasy
positions in Las
Meninas (pp. 58-61)
"Foucault reads the painting in terms of representation
and the subject" (Dreyfus and Rabinow, 1982, p. 20). . . .
the painting tells us something about how representation and the subject
The meaning of the picture is produced, Foucault
argues, through this complex inter-play between presence (what you see,
the visible) and absence (what you can't see, what has displaced it within
Two centers -- the Infanta and Royal Couple.
from being finally resolved into some absoluate truth which is the meaning
of the picture, the discourse of the painting quite deliberately keeps
us in this state of suspended attention.
Our look -- our identification with one
subject position For the painting to work, the spectator. . .
must subject him/herself to the painting's discourse and, in this way,
become the painting's ideal viewer.
Three subject positions.
From another book:
Foucault's arguments about discursive formations--we
should not focus on one or two privileged images, but grasp the regularities
which linked the different manifestations of a certain imagery together
across different sites of representation.
Foucault's arguments about discursive specificity--we
need to attentive to the specific discursive codes and conventions
through which ...is signified ...
Foucault's insistence on the operation of
power through discursive regimes-- opens up the possibility of analyzing
the power relations which function in the construction of these
Foucault's emphasis on the institutional dimension
of discourses -- how the images were rooted within specific institutional
Foucault's contention about the discursive
production of subjectivity-- a set of images as a new subject position
opened up ...